As autumn settles in and the world settles down, serious readers regroup. Passionate readers begin to hear the resonant voice of a debut author; they prowl the indie bookstores, comb the alternative media for book fairs and readings, check the library for what’s forthcoming in their genre-of-choice. Soon will come the crucial gathering of the minds when The Book Club will choose The Book, the tome that will ignite the group to delve into the syntax, symbolism and significance of a shared read.
For this reason October is the chosen month for bibliophiles to unite their literary forces in celebration of National Reading Group Month (NRGM)!
True confession: I am not now nor have I ever been a member of a Reading Group. In one respect, this post is cathartic, a way to assuage the guilt that haunts me and leaves me in the literary shadows. Still, since legitimate bibliophiles are busy reading, interpreting and discussing The Book, I feel some responsibility to offer an objective report on the mission and events of National Reading Group Month.
The prime mover behind NRGM is Women’s National Book Association (WNBA), which initiated the idea in October 2007 as the capstone of their 70th anniversary celebration. Focus on reading groups is just one of the WNBA’s efforts to foster the values of reading groups: “camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.”
Minnesota readers may find themselves in the role of observers of NRGM. In spite of the state’s countless book groups, we are not an identified “chapter” of NWBA. At this writing there are chapters in Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, LA, Nashville, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.
In the inclusive spirit of a reading world that transcends geography, this detail should not discourage Minnesota book groups from joining the celebration.
One place to catch the wave is to check the list of titles identified as Great Group Reads. The recommendations, made by WNBA in partnership with Book Group Buzz, (http://bookgroupbuzz.booklistonline.com)reflect a clearly stated bias; according to Rosaline Reinder, Selection Coordinator of the Great Group Reads list, titles are chosen because they are “lively, thought-provoking, and diverse, strong narratives peopled by fully realized characters, that will help passionate readers find those great gems of mid-list fiction and nonfiction that may be overlooked in the clamor over the bestsellers.” The 21-title list is online at http://www.nationalreadinggroupmonth.org/ggr_selections.html
As might be expected in a region noted for its literacy Minnesota’s cities and towns teem with book groups. The number and nature of these circles of literary activity is fluid, ephemeral, and incalculable in the extreme. Still the honest efforts that have been made, suggest the universe. The local CBS outlet dared to identify the “Best Book Clubs to Join in the Twin Cities;” They came up with profiles of just five. (http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-book-clubs%5Bto-join-in-the-twin-cities/) . MinnPost produced a statewide inventory and brief profiles of local groups in 2010-2011 (http://www.minnpost.com/sites/default/files/asset/9/9gvzs1/9gvzs1.pdf)
There are meet-up book groups organized by geography, genre, ambience of the meeting site. Many public libraries and independent bookstores keep files and know a lot about the book clubs they serve.
What’s new in reading groups? The Reblog Book Club, purported to be first official Tumblr book club. They’re currently reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. They’ve had two sessions so far and will be meeting again the week of October 1 to discuss plot developments. Participants in the Tumblr sessions are encouraged to express their feelings about the book however they wish, “in a written review, fan art, gifs, poems, letters, or whatever.” Tumblr-philes can contribute by posting their own Tumblr blog and tagging the post #reblogbookclub, or submit directly to the book club Tumblr at http://reblogbookclub.tumblr.com/submit.